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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                   243

threatened, but in vain. The officer, pressing his small
bony fists to his chest, answered that such were the regu-
lations and that he had no power to violate them. In
all probability, he really had no power to expedite the
matter. With a gesture of disgust, Meresyev went away.

And thus commenced his wanderings from one war
office department to another. His troubles were increased
by the fact that in the hurry with which he had been
brought to the hospital he had not been provided with
clothing, food and money allowance certificates, and up
till now he had not taken the trouble to obtain them. He
did not even have a leave certificate. Although the kind
and obliging officer in charge of these matters promised
to telephone his regimental headquarters and ask them
to send the necessary papers at once. Meresyev knew how
slowly everything was done and realised that for some
time he would have to live without money, without lodg-
ings and without rations in stern war-time Moscow,
where every kilogram of bread and every gram of sugar
was precious.

He telephoned to Anyuta at the hospital. Judging by
her voice she must have been worried or busy with some-
thing, but she was very glad that he had arrived and
insisted that he should stay at her place during these few
days, the more so that she was quartered at the hospital
and he would have the place to himself.

The sanatorium had provided each departing patient
with a five-day dry ration for the journey, and so, with-
out thinking twice, Alexei went off to the now familiar
dilapidated little house that nestled in the depths of the
courtyard behind the tall backs of the lofty new
buildings. He had a roof over his head and some food to
eat, so now he could wait. He mounted the familiar dark,
winding staircase that still smelt of cats, kerosene
and damp washing, groped for the door and knocked

The door was opened, but being held by two stout
chains, stood ajar. The little old woman poked her thin
face through the narrow space, looked at Alexei distrust-
fully and searchingly and asked him who he was, whom
he wanted and what his name was. Only after that did
the chain rattle and the door swing wide open.